Oct. 24 2019 12:00 AM

The 2019 Sustainability Award comes with a $5,000 donation.

Photo: Propane Education and Research Council

Every year the Propane Education and Research Council, Washington, D.C., a nonprofit that promotes the use of propane, recognizes one city in the U.S. as a Green Leadership City. This year, the distinction was given to the city of Knoxville, Tennessee.

The small southeastern city was recognized specifically for its adoption of clean, propane-powered mowers for its municipal landscape maintenance needs among other environmentally-friendly programs that support the city’s sustainability and emissions-reduction goals.

Madeline Rogero, Knoxville’s mayor, accepted a $5,000 donation from PERC officials during a celebration event at Suttree Landing Park. Standing by her were other city officials and Public Service Department employees, the people who operate the propane-fueled mowers regularly. The donation will benefit Knoxville’s CAC Beardsley Community Farm, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting food security and sustainable agriculture, based in the city’s Malcolm Martin Park.

“The Green Leadership City Award is given to one community nationwide every year in recognition of a commitment to environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices,” said Jeremy Wishart, director of off-road business development for PERC. “Over the past few years, the city of Knoxville has worked to demonstrate environmental stewardship in its community by maintaining the city’s greenspaces with propane mowers — and we want to thank them for that.”

The city began transitioning its mower fleet to propane in 2015 to reduce its carbon footprint. As of September 2019, 18 of the city’s 25 commercial mowers were fueled by propane, making the city’s fleet one of the largest propane mower fleets in the state of Tennessee. The city plans to continue transitioning to propane equipment.

PERC says that using propane instead of gasoline in power equipment reduces greenhouse gases and produces fewer carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulfur oxide emissions. In the year 2018 alone, Knoxville reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by more than 10 tons by using propane-fueled mowers.

“This year we are on track to exceed our 20% reduction target in greenhouse gas emissions from city operations,” said Rogero. “We’ve reduced our fleet emissions by 10% from 2005 levels through strategic investments in fuel efficiency and alternative fuels. By maintaining local greenspaces with propane mowers, we’re contributing to a healthier environment and providing the same excellent services our Knoxville residents expect.”

The propane mowers are being used by the city’s Horticulture and Public Service Departments to maintain city rights-of-way, some 400 acres of parks and approximately 1,947 vacant lots.